The legendary Richard Corben has brought a horror anthology series to Dark Horse Comics with Shadows on the Grave. It’s a miniseries of skin-crawling stories very reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt, complete with ironic cosmic punishments being meted out to mortals and a narrator character with a chatty personality.
I’ll admit, I hadn’t been exposed to much of Mr. Corben’s work beyond Hellboy. I’m sad that I haven’t now. It’s very distinct. It’s caricature-like qualities make it very well suited for the horror genre. That’s admittedly stating the obvious, given that he has had a very long career in the genre, but the point remains that his art is fantastic. Furthermore, it remains so in this comic.
Shadows On the Grave brings four stories to the table with its sixth issue.
The first is about a conman arriving in a small town that welcomes him with open arms, believing him to be someone they have been waiting for. Needless to say, something is amiss, but the conman is too enamored with his treatment to notice it.
The second tale in Shadows on the Grave #6 is about a vicious trapper who goes beyond his permitted borders and kills a mysterious creature.
The third is about a man with intense nightmares recounting them in a therapy session, only to realize the nightmares may have more bearing in reality than he first thought.
The final story is a continuation to the tale of Denaus, a story of tragedy and deception in an ancient Greece setting.
Corben’s art is the kind you can get lost in with every detail. It’s all-at-once familiar and unnerving. The textures look so real, but the expressions and features feel so wrong. It’s fantastic and shows a craftsman who has mastered his form after years of honing it. I can’t stress enough how mesmerizing it is, and the monochrome color pallet actually helps with the feelings of alienation and simple wrongness.
The stories are a little predictable. You can see where they’re going and the likely endpoint of the ironic punishment. The ending to the first two are especially signaled, with the first showing a disappointing lack of imagination in the ending.
However, predicting where a story going and actually watching it play out are two different things, and seeing the progression of these tales still delivers a lot of addictive chills to the reader. The art, of course, is integral to this enthralling experience, showing that how you present a story is just as important as how you tell it.
The dialogue is a bit hokey throughout and definitely shows a lot of old-industry influence. A lot of people explain their personality and intentions plainly, and there’s a good bit of characters explaining what is going on in the panels. This does detract from the comic a bit, but it also bolsters the B-movie charm of the whole experience. It feels like a lot of ’50s horror stories, filtered through ’80s storytelling sensibilities, to bring about an experience in 2017 that is actually aided by showing its roots instead of being dated by them.
I highly recommend Shadows on the Grave for horror fans. It’s creepy, the art is incredible, and it’s an all-around great time. Pick this one up.
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